The atrocious treatment of women in the Arab world is well-known, but people are much less aware of the plight of some European Muslim women. The increasing degradation of Muslim women in Europe is largely due to the work of the Wahhabi and Muslim Brotherhood propaganda over the last 15 years. In European countries, some Muslims --especially the younger generation -- are faced with an identity crisis. They do not feel Western even though they were born in the West and are European citizens. But they do not feel Arab either. So they choose a new nationality: Islamist.
Indeed, in some areas and regarding some issues, European Muslim women are no better off than their Arab Muslim counterparts. Here are just some examples of the abuse suffered by some European Muslim women:
- Forced to wear the hijab, i.e. headscarf
- Forced to marry someone according to the family's will
- Must undergo excision "procedure"
- Gang rapes for not "respecting" Islam
- Killed by a relative because for "dishonoring" the name of the family.
Most Muslim French women who wear the hijab are forced to do so by their family or because of pressure from the community. In many testimonies young women have stated that they were wearing it not to be "bothered" by the men in their community. There were multiple cases in the suburbs of Paris of gang rapes of women who were too "Westernized".
In a book entitled Wed By Force (Oh Editions, Paris, May 2004), Leila -- the author could not reveal her last name -- tells of her own nightmarish existence. She was raped by one of her brothers when she was quite young and did not tell anyone -- even her mother -- because she would have not been believed. She was regularly beaten up by her father because she was a little rebellious. She just wanted to behave like a girl her age but it was impossible because otherwise she would ruin the family's reputation. Like her other Muslim friends, she had to respect the law of silence. She also depicts how her family chose a husband for her. He was 15 years older than she and she does not know him.
You may guess that Leila lives in Saudi Arabia but she lives in the suburbs of Paris in 2005. She is a French citizen born in France of Moroccan parents. Unfortunately, Leila is not alone. Statistics do not lie: each year, in France, 50,000 women are wed against their will.
But this is not the worst of it, because sometimes death is the punishment. Indeed the number of "honor crimes" - where women are attacked by relatives for "shaming" the family name -- has increased alarmingly in Europe in the past year. For instance, according to the German TV Station ARD, ten "honor crimes" have been committed in Germany since summer 2004. A horrible recent one has scandalized German opinion. A Turkish Muslim woman, a 23-year-old mother of one, was gunned down at a Berlin bus stop. The presumed culprits are three of her brothers who repeatedly threatened her. For them, she led an "un-Islamic" life because she had stopped wearing the hijab and was outgoing. On top of this horrific murder, the reactions among some Turks living in Germany are disgusting. For instance, a male student of Turkish origin at a high school located near the scene of the crime, said, "She deserved what she got -- the whore lived like a German."
Another country where "honor crimes" have been rising and publicized is the Netherlands. In the past weeks, three "honor crimes" have been committed. A Dutch politician of Somali descent, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, has been very vocal on the issue. Hirsi Ali co-wrote with Theo Van Gogh the documentary critical of Islam, over which Van Gogh was brutally murdered by a Moroccan Islamist. She now lives in hiding, protected by bodyguards because of the numerous death treats she received, including one from Van Gogh's killer. She explains that most times the killers in honor crimes are the youngest males in the family, often minors. Indeed because they face a lesser jail sentence, it is quite convenient for the family. Therefore, Hirsi Ali suggests that the whole family be judged for the crime, at least for complicity. Also according to her, "honor crimes" should be included in a new Dutch anti-terrorist law.
Do not think for a moment this only happens in Europe. In April 2004, in Scottsville, NY, a Turkish immigrant savagely murdered his wife and nearly killed his daughters because they had been molested by his brother. He allegedly told investigators that: "I was concerned that my family's honor was taken".
The spread of Radical Islam in the West is not only a question of large-scale terrorism but also of everyday life or sometimes everyday death.
Olivier Guitta is a freelance writer specializing in the Middle East and Europe.